Let's Hear It For The Horror Moms This Mother's Day!
Horror moms. We all know them and many of them frighten the hell out of us, but we have a deep appreciation for everything they endure in a movie. These moms will go to the ends of the earth to do whatever it takes to help their children and many of them do it damn well. So with it being Mother’s Day, some of the GG staff wanted to pay tribute to our favorite horror moms and why they are such badass women. Before we get into the countdown, we want to wish anyone playing the motherly role a Happy Mother’s Day!
Now onto our list:
Heather Langenkamp in Wes Craven’s A New Nightmare: It's not often we get to see our horror icons evolve far enough to see what they do when they aren't only protecting themselves from a slasher legend, but their kin. Fortunately, in 1994, Wes Craven was granted the opportunity to return to the franchise that gave the world Freddy Krueger and Wes Craven's A New Nightmare hit the big screen. With A New Nightmare, we most certainly saw the cinematic trappings that Wes was toying with that would eventually lead to cultural phenomenon Scream, and in 1994 Craven gave us one of the most meta takes on film since the likes of experimental directors Jodorowsky and Fellini. Heather Langenkamp plays herself in a world where she really did play the infamous final girl Nancy, a world where A Nightmare on Elm Street is exactly what we know it as: a film. However, lines become blurred as Freddy Krueger starts to make himself known in our reality and preying upon Heather Langenkamp's son, Dylan. Langenkamp is able to give us the same hero's journey we experienced in the original Nightmare but with even more nuance and vulnerability, as this time she's out to save herself and her son. Heather spends the entirety of the film believing what her son is telling her and is willing to risk life and limb to ensure his safety. Just as Nancy was once able to, Heather also uses her wits and intelligence to draw Freddy out and even when that plan goes south, it's pure grit and daring that allow her to triumph AGAIN over everyone's favorite dream demon. (Ryan Larson)
Piper Laurie as Margaret White in Carrie: My choice for a mother worth highlighting is Margaret White, the much-feared matriarch of everyone's favorite telekinetic, Carrie White. In the seminal Stephen King work 'Carrie', Margaret is a deeply disturbed woman living with undiagnosed mental illness, most likely severe schizophrenia, who has been seriously religious since her father was killed at a young age. She married Ralph White, a similarly pious man, but one night he drunkenly forces himself upon her and she winds up pregnant with Carrie. Ralph dies in a construction accident, leaving Margaret to raise the baby alone, and she knows from the infant years that Carrie is capable of supernatural things. Margaret believes that Carrie is a punishment for her sins, and she raises her while trying to 'save' her; nonstop preaching, physical and emotional abuse, and psychological torment are among her favorite parenting techniques. Carrie longs to be like the other girls she sees, and after sixteen years of her mother's abuse, she is able to stop her in the final showdown; in the novel, she stops her heart, whereas in the movie there's a beautifully-shot (thanks de Palma) moment involving a mock crucifixion with kitchen utensils. Margaret may not have been the most compassionate, modern or empathetic mother, but there's no denying that her puritanical fury and her savage manipulations cement her as one unforgettable mother in pop culture. "They're all going to laugh at you!" (Amanda Rebholz)
Catherine Hicks as Karen Barclay in Child’s Play: The fierce loyalty that mothers have for their children is what I love the most about seeing them on screen. This trait is probably tested the most in horror films, where moms are faced with often unimaginable circumstances that they must overcome to protect their kids. This is the situation in which single mother Karen Barclay finds herself in Child’s Play. Despite their financial situation, all she wants is to make her six-year-old’s birthday a happy one, and buys him the coveted Good Guy doll from a homeless man. Of course, this doll is possessed by the soul of a serial killer who wants to take over her son Andy’s body. The situation sounds crazy even to her at times, but once she learns the truth, she stops at nothing to save Andy. First, she has to face the tragic death of her best friend Maggie and not let it break her for the sake of her son. When Karen first finds out that the doll is alive - in one of the most scary and tense scenes ever - she doesn’t even hesitate to immediately go after him to stop him from getting to Andy. She must deal with the obstacle of no one, especially the cops, believing her and Andy about the doll, yet she never waivers in her belief or her loyalty to her child no matter how crazy she seems. Karen finds herself in dangerous situations in tracking down the truth - squaring off with Chucky himself and other people that mean her harm. In their final showdown, she is the one that ultimately has to step up and fight Chucky and it is her admirable fearlessness that helps save the day. Actress Catherine Hicks was not yet a mom herself when she took on the role of Karen, yet the chemistry between her and little Alex Vincent as Andy is so adorable and believable that you are absolutely rooting for them every step of the way. Karen Barclay continuously displays the dogged determination and love that is common in the portrayal of mothers in horror films, and they are what make her one of the best moms out there. (Michele Eggen)
Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist: If there is one film that still sends the utmost chills down my spine, it is The Exorcist by William Friedkin. It could possibly because I went to Catholic school for 13 years of my life, but everything about this movie scares the ever living hell out of me. Thankfully it still holds up. As a young teen, Linda Blair, no doubt puts on a jaw dropping performance unlike any other as the possessed girl named Regan. Contorting herself in various positions puts my mobility to shame, and I will forever praise her for that role. However, as time passes, Ellen Burstyn is the matriarch that I look towards. She puts her life on the line and will do anything to help her demon soaked child. She is a pure form of dedication as a mother in my opinion. Battling everything that comes in her way whether it be the fear of what is to come, the threat that is upon her daughter’s life, or roadblocks that unfortunately come to play. Burstyn suffered a permanent spine injury on the set of The Exorcist after filming multiple takes of her being pulled to the ground by a wire. Not only a trooper of a character, but a trooper of an actress, Burstyn completed the filming while injured and has had her bad back ever since. Chris MacNeil will forever solidify for me how I would want to be as a mother for my future children, and by future children I mean dogs. (Rachael Hauschild)
Frances Lynn McCain - Lynn Peltzer in Gremlins: “What would you do in a crisis?” is a question we unfortunately have to ask ourselves, honestly, on a daily basis. Would you clam up in the face of danger, or would the severe immediate trauma focus your senses and ya do what ya gotta do! Let’s all hope we are as badass as the Lynn Peltzer in Gremlins who chops, microwaves, and stabs THE FUCK out of some Gremlins. In her heightened awareness not only does she use a TV tray as a shield, dons not one but two knives, but dives into defending her hearth and home without hesitation. And while Frances Lee McCain sadly sits on the sidelines for the rest of the film after her triumphant battle, it’s the most gore filled explosion of violence that is synonymous with Joe Dante’s perfect films. (Jacob Trussell)
Louise Lasser - Maddy in Blood Rage: Poor Maddy. She was just a single mother with twin boys who wanted to just get back out there. And what was the closest thing we had to Tinder in the 1970s? THE DRIVE-IN! But, unfortunately for her, one of her two sons is a psychopath. And wouldn’t you know it, on the eve of her marriage to a new husband, one of her psycho sons breaks out of the mental asylum he’s been in for the last 10 years! And the killings are beginning again! This takes one hell of a toll on Maddy who must finally take maternal justice into her own. What sets Maddy apart from other moms is her portrayal by Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’s Louise Lasser who is an absolute revelation. Maddy barely is holding it together at the start of the film, and she progressively deteriorates through the 80m runtime and this is only made bearable by Lassers unhinged, firing on all cylinders performance. In many ways it was a gross exaggeration of her neurotic alter-ego on Mary Hartman but pushed to such an extreme it’s only peer would be Isabelle Adjani’s fearless performance in Possession. (Jacob Trussell)
Zoe Kazan - The Monster: For my pick, I went with Zoe Kazan’s Kathy character from the Bryan Bertino film, THE MONSTER. Somewhat of an under appreciated gem of a film, THE MONSTER puts a stranded mother and daughter against a creature ready to kill them both. It’s about the moments where we have to decide what’s important to us and to put on the parent hat and go above and being to protect our kids. With Kathy, we’re given a protagonist that isn’t a good mom at first, in fact she’s selfish and immature and has a very fractured relationship with her daughter. It’s only after being broken down and stuck inside of their car, that Kathy must be the mom she was always supposed to be. What the film and the character showed us, is that as parents, we are flawed. Sometimes we’re in over our heads and we don’t know what the hell we’re doing. A sign of a good parent and more importantly a great mother, is the moment in the film in which she lets go of all the baggage, the pain and the letdown feeling she had as a parent in over her head and showed true self sacrifice for her child. THE MONSTER gave us a deeply flawed mother, fighting with not only the literal monster stalking her and the child she was at odds with parenting, but the monster within herself, the demons she had to battle. It’s an absolutely effective film and Bertino’s writing really gave viewers a layered character to follow. (Jerry Smith)